Thursday, February 17, 2011

CMU baseball opens season with four games against Florida Gulf Coast

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || February 17, 2011

All winter, the Central Michigan baseball team has been training.

“We’ve been working hard for a long time,” said starting pitcher Bryce Morrow.

And since last May, when the team fell in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship game, the Chippewas have been waiting.

“From that day,” said starting pitcher Mike Nixon, “We got a taste.”

Last year, the team got a taste. CMU won the MAC regular season championship with a 36-22 record before falling just short to Kent State.

This year, the team wants its cake.

“We want to do more this year,” Morrow said. “We want to be the team winning the [MAC] Tournament and the team going to [NCAA] Regionals.”

And starting today, as the team travels to Jacksonville, Fla., to open their season with four games against Florida Gulf Coast University, the Chippewas are on its way.

“We’re ready for it,” Nixon said. “Our focus has been there and our attitude has been there.”

The season-opening trip to FCGU is the second in the past three years for CMU.

In 2009, the teams played as part of Midnight Madness and the first college baseball game of the season.

“They’re a young program,” said head coach Steve Jaksa, “Historically, they’ve been a good ballclub.”

The Eagles return seven position players, four pitchers from last season and are led by senior starting pitcher Richie Erath.

Junior left-hander Trent Howard will oppose Erath on the mound for the Chippewas tonight, followed by right-handers Morrow and Zach Cooper in a Saturday doubleheader.

Junior Ryan Longstreth will round out the series-opening rotation on Sunday.

“It’s going to be good to get outside, play someone other than ourselves and get some wins,” said Morrow, a senior.

On Wednesday, the Chippewas were able to get outside for the first time all winter, practicing on the football field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium thanks to mild Mount Pleasant temperatures.

“It was awesome,” he continued. “The weather was really nice, it just gets you excited to get down to good weather.”

FCGU has won the past three Atlantic Sun championships and split the pair of games against CMU in 2009.

Nixon, a senior, made the trip that season as a sophomore.

“A big group of us have played them and they have a pretty good team,” he said. “They’ve been down there, outside for three months so we’re going to have to play hard and hopefully it will turn out well.”

Jaksa said he’s most excited to get onto a baseball diamond and compete.

“You set a tone anytime you go out there to play,” he said. “The thing that’s really important to me is to see how prepared we are and to see where we’re at competing.”

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